Religious festivals will continue to impact on demand for sheepmeat during the year, according to Bord Bia.

In its 2016 outlook for the sheep sector, Bord Bia highlighted that as Easter is falling earlier in 2016, this should lead to a stronger hogget trade in the first quarter of 2016 while Muslim festivals later on in the year should also boost demand.

According to the IFA, factories generally paying €5.30 to €5.40/kg and top prices of €5.50/kg paid in recent days for top quality lambs. It says the factories are offering 20c/kg over quoted prices.

Bord Bia also said that currency fluctuations between the Euro and Sterling will also impact the trade for lamb in 2016 as the weakening in the value of the euro has made UK exports relatively less competitive, therefore creating a favourable opportunity for Irish sheep meat exports.

France and the UK continue to be core markets for Irish sheepmeat, accounting for 63% of export volumes in 2015.

Global Market

According to Bord Bia the global sheepmeat market continues to become more polarised between the traditional markets of Europe and emerging markets where domestic supplies struggle to match demand.

These developments are leading to a narrowing of the price differential between New Zealand and European lamb, it says.

Given the attractiveness of the Irish lamb proposition Bord Bia says European retail/foodservice buyers are increasing looking towards Ireland as a source of high-quality product.

Reduced price volatility is also evident in Europe, it says as demonstrated by the fact that during the transition from hogget to new season lamb, prices remained above the €5/ kg mark and it wasn’t until early July when the main volumes of UK lamb came onto the market that prices realigned downwards.

Following a rise in 2015, EU output is likely to remain steady in 2016. It is hoped that stable production, a strong live trade and a forecast drop in New Zealand output will help price levels.